Networks Not Lovin McDonalds Efforts

Networks Not Lovin McDonalds Efforts
New commercial with a healthy focus draws fire from morning shows.

By Amy Menefee
June 9, 2005

     McDonalds took another hit from network mornings shows on June 9, 2005. All three networks NBC, CBS and ABC attacked a new commercial and one even blamed the restaurant for childhood obesity.

     On CBSs The Early Show, Hannah Storm interviewed advertising critic Barbara Lippert, who declared that McDonalds is the new tobacco and blamed the burger chain for obesity. They see that theyve engendered this problem, theyve really created this way of eating, and now theyre trying to do something good, she said of the commercial, which depicts active children exercising and getting vegetables.

     Storm argued, Some people would argue that the smart choice is to not eat at McDonalds. She later added, But some people, experts, claim that these ads are disingenuous because you cant find that food that you see in the commercial in abundance when you go to a McDonalds.

     Storm did not have any actual people giving the opinions that she attributed to some people. The reporter was the only source of these comments in the shows segment on the issue, and the voice of personal responsibility was conspicuously absent.

     In fact, McDonalds does offer the foods shown in the ad, including garden-style salads, fruit salad and a fruit and yogurt parfait. Lippert chimed in that their menu is still 90-10, 10 percent salads. She left out the fact that McDonalds responds to customer choices to make its menu selections.

     Lippert said this is a very schizophrenic time for fast food, as chains have added salads and other less-fattening options to their menus. On one hand, thats where they make their money, thats what they sell, she said. But on the other hand, they know they have to change the menu. Storm didnt bother to correct Lippert. She could have pointed out that restaurants dont have to change their menus. They have been doing so in response to consumer demand.

     On ABC, David Muir used his Good Morning America report to remind viewers that more than 9 million children in the U.S. are overweight, and a third of them eat fast food every day.

     His anti-McDonalds expert, who said the restaurant lures customers with healthier menu options only for them to succumb to the smell of the deep fryer, was Dr. David Katz. Katz is a regular contributor to ABC News, but he also directs the Yale Prevention Research Center, which is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recently revised its statistics on obesity-related deaths, which were found to be highly overstated. However, CDC became uncomfortable with its new statistics and kept up its crusade against obesity.

     Peter Alexander continued the mornings trend on NBCs Today, bemoaning the childhood obesity epidemic before including footage of Morgan Spurlocks Super Size Me in his report. As Alexander noted, Spurlocks anti-McDonalds film claimed that the chain helped get kids hooked on fast food.

     After including a token comment from McDonalds marketing vice president, Alexander emphasized how long a person would have to run to work off a McDonalds meal with a burger and fries. He then turned to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a radical anti-food industry organization, for criticism of the commercial. CSPIs Michael Jacobson said that McDonalds should be serving healthier foods.

     Fast food restaurants, like any other companies, adjust their product offerings to meet consumer demand. They also use advertising in an attempt to sell products. However, Lippert and Storm criticized several restaurants for these common business practices.

     McDonalds is marketing to children; Carls Jr. and Burger King are marketing to men, Storm said. This all sort of smacks of desperation.

     Unfortunately, the networks reaction to McDonalds new advertising emphasis on health smacked of anything but balance.